Breast Beginnings: Coping With Nursing Strikes

Just when you think breastfeeding is going well, and you’ve gotten over the initial hurdles, nursing strikes can come from out of nowhere and last for a few days. 

They can be caused by many different factors such as teething, illness, a blocked nose, a change in your milk caused by your diet, period or pregnancy and sometimes there just isn’t any obvious cause.

Having recently experienced a nursing strike with my baby, I’d like to share some tips that helped me get through it.

Feed While Baby Is Sleepy

Feeding when your baby is either asleep or just waking up can often be much more successful than trying to feed her when she is awake if she’s being fussy.  

Try Different Positions

Keeping your baby as upright as possible during nursing (I find nursing in a sling helpful for this) can help, especially if the nursing strike is a result of a stuffy nose.  Other babies may nurse better lying down.  It’s a matter of trial and error to find what works best for you.

Go Back To Basics

Nurse in a quiet room, with few distractions and use plenty of skin to skin contact, just like you did in the early days.  If you’re going out and about, wearing your baby in a sling can help to keep your close bond which can encourage breastfeeding.  Your baby will hopefully follow her natural instincts to nurse.   

Don’t Force The Issue

Although it is tempting, trying to force your baby to feed when she’s distressed will only make her, and you, more distressed, and your baby could end up associating the negative feelings with feeding, making her even more reluctant.  Also, try not to get frustrated, as your baby can pick up on how you’re feeling.  If it’s not happening, just give your baby a cuddle, and try again when she’s calmer.

Express A Little Milk

Expressing a small amount of milk and leaving it on your nipple gives your baby a taste of milk right away, which could be the encouragement she needs to feed.  You could also express some milk using a pump to get your letdown going before feeding, giving the baby less work to do in order to get the milk flowing.

Nursing Strike Or Self Weaning?

It’s unlikely that a baby under 18 months will self wean and, when babies do self wean, it is usually a gradual process, so if your baby suddenly stops breastfeeding it is more than likely to be a nursing strike, not self weaning.  It’s important to be able to distinguish the two.

Keep Your Supply Up

If your baby is refusing to feed or feeding less than normal you may wish to pump regularly to ensure you keep your supply up (pump as often as your baby was feeding before the strike).  The milk you pump can be stored to feed to your baby at a later date and emptying your breasts when your baby isn’t feeding well helps reduce the chances of you getting a clogged duct.

Remember if you’re concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough food during a nursing strike, it’s a good idea to see your doctor or health visitor, just to make sure there are no underlying problems.